We Are Blood Theme Development

At the end of design research, our project team — Catherine, Kim, and Zev — had accumulated hundreds of independent utterances from participants we spoke with at mobile blood drives conducted by our clients, We Are Blood. In developing themes, we have unpacked the meaning in each of the ideas presented in the participant’s own words, and grouped them together based on the inferences we have pulled out of each quote.

When we began this stage of the design process, we saw a daunting wall of redundant statements and trivial quotes. But as we shuffled them around, some bland quotes unexpectedly became very central to the themes we were creating.

For example:

“We make sure [mats] are close to the floor, if they start to get light headed or anything, it’s very easy for us to lay them down. The beds are set up so we can accommodate more kids…so I can be over here with a donor and still be watching another donor closely.”— Keralyn, line 5,10

By digging into the psychology of being a mobile blood donation phlebotomist, we learned that language around their jobs, like this example, can be very technical and dry. That’s because there are many standards and etiquettes around FDA policies, and the training of a phlebotomist is very medical and procedural.

But another, deeper real job of a phlebotomist is to improvise as customer service representatives of their company and transform their position into that of an entertainer who performs a good blood donation, one that will convince a new donor to repeat. Keralyn’s quote, above, also tells us just how thoughtfully she and others take the donor’s experience into consideration as they set up a blood drive.

By developing and presenting our themes, we learned about how the phlebotomists are the heartbeat of We Are Blood’s organization.

It’s important to note that our results were greatly impacted by an event that happened a week ago today. Every group of the six student projects that are happening simultaneously got called into a chat with instructors Jon and Matt. We were told that we would not be presenting on Wednesday like we were supposed to, but we would get an extension to the following Monday (today). On average each team had themed about 15 percent of their data. We had all gone in and chosen our favorite utterances that seemed the most interesting to us, and developed a couple of thematic buckets and several distinct themes. Jon and Matt requested that we theme all of our data, not just our favorites.

As a result, we went back to the board. Hours later, we’d gone from having several themes to having 50+.

When we started to draw connections between our themes we discovered clusters of themes that made sense together. So we began sifting through and found three groups of themes that we called motifs.

Motif 1: More than anything else, people are motivated to give in ways that feel unique and easy.

Motif 2: Phlebotomists are the central heartbeat of We Are Blood. Their work is the human-centered staging that makes the entire experience.

Motif 3: Phlebotomists are stretched thin and are isolated in their work, and their key insights may not be being heard.

Elaborating on the first motif we heard donors talking about how they donate to make themselves feel good.

“It’s a good thing to be able to give my blood for somebody else. Because if I ever need it, I would hope that other people would do the same.” — Hannah, line 11

We also recognized that people felt unique donating something that was more personal than a monetary contribution and that made them feel special. If a corporate employee has the option between clicking a button on their computer to donate to a cause during their lunch break, or to go to the mobile blood vehicle in the parking lot, that employee would feel much more elevated by donating blood.

“It’s a good thing to do and it doesn’t cost you anything. People need it, and hopefully, you’ll help them. It’s just so easy.” — Greta, line 8

Hitting on the second motif—phlebotomists are the heartbeat of the organization—we heard mobile staff saying things that made them sound like improv performers or actors. Their job was to distract the donor from the medical procedure happening in front of their eyes and put them in a mind space where they wouldn’t have a physiological reaction to their fear or excitement of needles and blood. Phlebotomists are able to think laterally and mask the medical coldness of blood donation and replace it with a community service sense of togetherness.

“We’re trying to keep their mind off of it, so it’s a lot of personal things. ‘What did you do this summer?’ … We try to make them laugh, try to make them happy. The more they can talk, the more we can assess if they are doing well, or starting to fade a little bit.” — Keralyn, 25

Finally, in our third motif we explored the tension area internally in the company. We noticed that there wasn’t a consistent platform for phlebotomists to be thinking about or sharing their insights from the field, and that the management didn’t have a consistent way of asking for that feedback. There is a ceiling over the phlebotomists and as a result no one is benefiting from the critical thinking and lateral thinking that phlebotomists demonstrate everyday on the job.

Artboard 6

“We have a state of the center meeting. Every quarter, I believe. If time allows it for us to attend we most definitely will. If not, then we’ll get some information from our managers.” — Katie, 39

From here, we will be working with these themes to map service slices and develop greater insights into the donor experience at We Are Blood.